Episodic Survey of the History of the Constellations

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J: Late Egyptian Constellations

20: Denderah zodiac

Photograph of the astronomical ceiling (dating to the Late Ptolemaic Period (i.e., late Hellenistic Period)) that was located at the temple of Hathor in Denderah, Egypt. The temple of Hathor was built during the Ptolemaic era. (The ruins at Denderah consist mainly of the remains of a temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. The Great Temple of Hathor at Denderah is one of the best preserved of all the temples in Egypt. It is devoted mainly to the Egyptian goddess Hathor.) The circular layout of the Denderah zodiac resembles a planisphere, which it is likely not. (However, Neugebauer and Parker (EAT, 1960-1968) concluded that the circular Denderah zodiac attempts to accurately represent the night sky.) The circular representation of the Egyptian sky is commonly called the Denderah zodiac (or Denderah E) because it depicts the Babylonian/Greek zodiacal constellations. All Egyptian zodiacs are late and originated in the Hellenistic (Ptolemaic) and Roman periods. (The Ptolemaics were a Greek dynasty originating from the break-up of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great. The Ptolemaic Period lasted from 332 BCE until 30 BCE (the early Christian era).) (The temple was used primarily for the celebration of the new year.) There are 36 "decans" around the circumference. The constellations shown inside the circle of "decans" include the 12 signs of the zodiac, corresponding to an Egyptian iconography. As example: Aquarius is represented as Hapy, the god of the Nile flood, pouring water from two vases. The Egyptian constellations of the northern sky (there were some 9 of these) appear in the centre. These include the Great Bear (Ursa Major) in the form of a bull's foreleg. A hippopotamus goddess, opposite Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, represents the constellation of the Dragon. The 5 planets that were known at the time are also included. Venus ("the god of the morning") is behind Aquarius, Jupiter ("Horus who Reveals the Mystery") is near Cancer, Mars ("Horus the Red") is directly above Capricorn. Mercury is called "the Inert" and Saturn "Horus the Bull."

All the Egyptian zodiacs are late (Hellenistic period, 200 BCE onwards) and incorporate the Greek zodiacal signs. See the MA thesis, Emory University: Stewart, Devon. (2010). Conservation and Innovation: The Zodiac in Egyptian Art.

All Egyptian zodiacs originated in the Greco-Roman period. Greece introduced the Babylonian zodiac (Babylonian-Greek zodiac and zodiacal astrology) into Egypt. At Denderah the 12 (intrusive) Babylonian/Greek zodiacal constellations are surrounded by Egyptian constellations. The Egyptian zodiacs which appeared during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods not only included the Greek signs of the zodiac but the old hour decans (probably no longer in use to mark the hours of the night), the planets, and other Egyptian stars or constellations as well (like the Big Dipper and the Hippopotamus). (The Babylonian-Greek astrological system was brought into Egypt by the Ptolemies in the 4th-century BCE.) The so-called Denderah zodiac is one of the oldest extant and most comprehensive representations of the constellations to have been made. Thought the Egyptian zodiacs were ultimately of Babylonian origin the Babylonian system of degrees was not adopted in ancient Egypt. There was no use of a system of degrees in ancient Egypt to measure celestial arcs.

The syncretic merging of traditional Egyptian "astronomical" iconography for the stars, constellations, and planets with recent Greek "astrological" iconography for the Babylonian-Greek 12-sign zodiac occurred during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The Greek astrological zodiac was a divination/magical system. Otto Neugebauer believed that with the Denderah zodiac the Egyptians did not want to lose any possible magic, so they represented both the Egyptian and Greek systems on the one planisphere even though in principle the 2 systems overlapped.

The earliest known Egyptian zodiac (the so-called Esna A zodiac) was rectangular and situated in the temple of Khoum 2.5 miles (approximately 4 kilometres) northwest of the town of Esna. It was located in a part of the temple that originated in the reigns of Ptolemy III-V. Hence it dated from circa 200 BCE. The temple was destroyed in 1843 to build a canal and the zodiac was destroyed along with it. The Esna A rectangular zodiac is preserved in a plate in the multi-volume Description de l’Egypte (1809-1829).

The best-known Egyptian zodiac is the so-called Denderah (circular) zodiac. The zodiac was situated in the ceiling in a middle room (pronaos = portico) of the small eastern Osiris chapel located on the roof of the Hathor temple - specifically on the western half of the ceiling of the central (i.e., first enclosed) chamber - and formed the greater part of the ceiling. Several sources state it formed one half of the ceiling. (It is essentially comprised of two concentric circles. The entire disk is approximately 240 centimetres (2.5 metres) in diameter (width). The circular star map is approximately 150 centimetres in diameter. Its thickness is approximately 90 centimetres. The weight of the two huge blocks of (red) sandstone comprising the disc (after sawing to reduce thickness to aid removal) is approximately 3 short tons/2.72 metric tons (6000 pounds/2722 kilograms).) At the time of the removal of the Denderah circular zodiac the ceiling was composed of 3 great slabs of sandstone placed together so closely that the joins were not visible. One of these slabs contained almost the whole of the zodiac. The 2nd slab, which occupied the middle of the ceiling, contained the remainder of the zodiac. The 3 slabs were almost of the same dimensions, each was 3 feet (= 0.9 metres) thick, and each weighed approximately 40,000 pounds (= 18,180 kilograms). To aid ease of removal of the 2 slabs containing the circular zodiac Jean Lelorrain reduced the thickness of each of these by approximately 1 foot (= 0.3 metres). The largest of the 2 slabs taken is approximately 8 feet long (= 2.5 metres) and 6 feet wide (= 1.8 metres), the other slab is is about the same length as the first but only about 3 feet wide (= 0.9 metres).

It is uncertain whether the apparent joint that passes through the middle of the carving is due to limitations on the size of the stone blocks originally used, or whether it was sawn through to make it easier to remove and transport to Paris. Looking at the figures near the apparent joint it is indicated that some serious damage occurred during removal and/or transport

Construction began on the temple of Hathor circa 125 BCE and was finished circa 60 CE. The pronaos/portico was commissioned by the Roman emperor Tiberius, as an addition to the late Ptolemaic chapel. (The Denderah circular zodiac is dated circa 36 BCE or 30 BCE. It is the oldest known representation of the zodiac.)

Accounts differ as to who discovered the Denderah circular zodiac. One source states it was discovered in 1798 by Louis Chastel, a captain of dragoons. Another source states it was first discovered in 1799 by Napoleon's General Louis Desaix (Dessaix) when he was pursuing the remnants of Murad-Bey's army (up the Nile) across the Thebaid (near Luxor). General Louis Desaix (Dessaix) made a brief visit as his army marched by the temple. It would seem that Napoleon's troops reached Denderah on 25th May 1799.

Accounts of who sketched (or re-sketched) the Denderah skymap, and when, tend to be a bit confusing. The French artist Vivant (I have also seen his first name appear as Dominique) Denon was the first to make a drawing of the Denderah planisphere. Vivant Denon accompanied Napoleon's Egyptian expedition and he was commissioned by General Louis Desaix (Dessaix) to do such for the projected Description de l'Egypte. The ceiling was rapidly sketched by the artist in 1799. (Denon's drawings at Denderah were done under considerable time pressure and many of them were completed later in France. Some drawings contain quite imaginary details.) The artist published the drawing in his 1802 account (a massive folio book titled Voyage) of his experiences traveling with Napoleon's Egyptian expedition. Vivant Denon's published drawing of what appeared to be a zodiac created immediate interest and caused immense discussion in Paris. In 1820 it was redrawn by Vivant Denon's compatriot the Italian scientist Girolamo Segato.

It would appear that the actual drawing/engraving of the Denderah zodiac ("The Round Denderah B Zodiac") that appeared in Description de l'Egypte was made by the French scholars Jean Jollois and René Devilliers (both scientists) also whilst accompanying Napoleon's Egyptian expedition (1798-1801). This was a more exact drawing. It was later published circa 1815 in the multi-volume Description de l'Egypte (Volume 4). (The drawing/engraving is not a completely accurate rendition of the actual ceiling.)

The British consul Henry Salt had attempted to acquire the ceiling for the British Museum but the French publisher and antiquities dealer/collector Sebastian Saulnier proposed the possibility of detaching the zodiac from the ceiling and bringing it to Paris. Circumstances prevented him from personally undertaking the task. He delegated the task. Sebastian Saulnier employed a French engineer/master mason, Jean Baptiste Lelorrain (also identified as Claude Lelorrain), as his agent to remove the sandstone slab and arrange its transport to France by ship. Jean Lelorrain left for Egypt in early October, 1820 with some specially constructed tools. The Zodiac was 12 feet (3.7 metres) across and 3 feet (0.92 metres) thick. Lelorrain estimated its weight to be approximately 20 tonnes (20,000 kilograms/44092.5 pounds) After considerable effort at sawing and pulling he eventually made careful use of gun powder to blow holes in the temple roof to effect the removal of the ceiling (= 2 key slabs?). Using stone saws and some gunpowder its thickness was halved. It was cut into 2 parts and the parts were lowered down the side of the temple. It was then dragged to the Nile River and loaded on a boat. It took 16 days to cover the 6.5 kilometres (4 miles, but some accounts state 6 miles) to the River Nile. Other problems faced included the River Nile was at its lowest ebb and an 18-metre (60-foot) earth ramp had to be built to slide the stone slabs down to the water's edge. The boat Lelorrain was trying to load the stone slabs onto nearly sank under the weight.

Sources differ regarding permission given to remove the Denderah zodiac. According to the Louvre website the Zodiac of Denderah was transported to France in 1821 with the permission of Egyptian ruler Muhammed Ali Pasha (who apparently was bribed). (Apparently, aside from the permission of Muhammed Ali Pasha (and knowledge of his agents), the expedition was secret. The date given for this secret expedition is 1822 but this is obviously an error and likely 1820/1821 is meant.) Muhammed Ali Pasha (circa 1769-1848) (also variously/commonly known as Pasha Mehmet Ali, Mehmet Ali Pasha) was Pasha and Viceroy of  Egypt. Pasha was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political and military system; Viceroy was an office, a regal official who ran a country as the representative of the ruling monarch. Lelorrain obtained a vaguely worded firman (permit/administrative order issued by or in the name of a Middle Eastern sovereign/monarch) from Muhammed Ali Pasha that grant him permission to explore and excavate. (One writer states that General Louis Desaix - with the permission of the Egyptian ruler Mohamed Ali Pasha - made the decision to remove the ceiling to France.)

The circular Denderah zodiac is one of the most famous Egyptian monuments preserved in France.

The original sandstone carving was moved from Denderah in 1821, on July 18, 1821, Lelorrain embarked the Zodiac for Marseilles, and it arrived by ship (the La Lorainne) at Marseilles on September 9, 1821. Due to quarantine restrictions it was not off-loaded until November 27. It arrived in Paris in 1822 and was put on show until it was sold to King Louis XVIII for 150,000 francs. (Public pressure had led to Sebastian Saulnier being paid this enormous sum of money for the zodiac.) It was then placed in the royal library (which later became the Bibliothéque Nationale). In 1919 (1920?) it was moved to the Louvre Museum, Paris where it was initially placed on display in the Grand Gallery on the ground floor. It was then moved several times and even located on a stairway. Since 1997 it has been in the Galerie D'Alger. (A plaster replica (a cast made from the original zodiac) only is now in the ceiling of the Osiris chapel at the Denderah temple. This mould from the original zodiac was made and sent to Egypt in 1920.)

English visitors arrived at Denderah prior to 1820.

The removal of the round/circular zodiac was prompted by chronological considerations. It was believed it could be used (along with the linear/rectangular zodiac in the pronaos (a room prior to the naos ("dwelling of a god/goddess"), or sanctuary) of the same temple complex) to determine the age of ancient Egyptian civilization, and consequently its relation to biblical events, could be determined.

Once it had possession of the original zodiac the French government declined to ratify the agreement entered into by Napoleon Bonaparte for the purchase of Castex's sculpture. Nevertheless, Castex continued the completion of his sculptured copy. It was purchased by an English speculator for sale to a British museum or private individual.

It would appear that a marble copy of the Denderah star map, carved by the French artist and sculptor Jean-Jacques Castex (1731-1821) in 1819 from casts (i.e., squeezes) of a one-third size wax model previously made (during the actual Napoleonic expedition to Egypt), is located in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England. Napoleon had originally contracted with Castex to produce a marble version of the wax model. However, the restoration government refused to honour Napoleon's contract. After (before?) Castex's death the marble carving came into the possession of a British speculator.

The first appearance in Egypt of our own 12 zodiacal constellations comes from the so-called Zodiac of Denderah. All available evidence indicates that the concept of the zodiac was not native to Egypt but that it was imported at a late (but unknown) date. (Perhaps during the period of the expansion of the Assyrian Empire. More likely it was introduced by the Greeks during the Hellenistic period.) The Egyptians were willing to adopt a new view of the celestial world in the form of the Greek zodiac. This late development was placed side by side on the Denderah zodiac with the traditional Egyptian astronomical representation. The Denderah star map integrates ancient Egyptian star-groups with the zodiacal constellations of the Babylonians (and Greeks). The Babylonian zodiac has been integrated into the Egyptian sky. (The French Egyptologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt has argued for an Egyptian origin of the zodiacal signs. She connects them with the cycle of the sun and Osiris.) The constellation figures outside the zodiac (except the Southern Fish, which was regarded as part of the Waterman) are Egyptian. (The identity of most of the other (purely Egyptian) constellation symbols remain unknown.)

The organisation of the zodiac is not haphazard but also it is not considered a very accurate astronomical representation. (None of the Egyptian zodiacs were very accurate astronomical representations.) (Like all the Egyptian zodiacs it includes the signs of the zodiac (ultimately of Babylonian origin), the old hour decans, the planets, and native Egyptian stars and constellations.) The astronomical ceiling shows all 12 zodiacal constellations (as well as other constellations, and the planets). The constellations are shown in the centre. It is a syncretistic zodiac based on Egyptian and Greek ideas and is most likely based on a Hellenistic model (i.e., from the use of the zodiacal Ram). The figures of 36 traditional Egyptian decans (from the Tanis family of decans), indicators of the hours of the night, are the outermost ring of figures in the circle, depicted standing on the circumference (as walking men, snakes, and other animals) (adjacent to the hands of the supporting figures). (The 36 decans/spirits, stand in a circle around the stars, = one for each ten days in the Egyptian year.) The signs of the zodiac are located inside the decan ring and the planets in their exaltations and some constellations are interspersed among them. (The planets are depicted as gods holding staffs.) The innermost figures are Egyptian constellations. The northern constellations are in the centre of the disc (and the north celestial pole is approximately at the centre of the disc). (These innermost figures are surrounded by Greek zodiacal constellation figures mixed with images of gods representing the planets.)

The decans - appearing around the outer rim - are included in the same frame as the constellations of the northern sky, and are grouped so that 3 decans belong to each of the 12 zodiacal signs. The single decan located between Gemini and Cancer is thought by Gyula Priskin (2015) to represent the 5 epagomenal days added to the core year of 360 days, for intercalation.

The 12 zodiacal constellations form an inner (and properly offset) ring (and follow a circle that corresponds to the ecliptic). All the 12 zodiac constellations are easily recognizable. The Egyptians, however, have varied the figures and also have varied the attitudes of the figures from those of the Babylonian-Greek sky. The identification of the zodiacal constellations can be made in clockwise sequence near the eccentric circle at the centre of the star map. (The positioning of the constellations Cancer and Libra is irregular.) To the right of centre are located the two fishes (Pisces), next (below the fishes) the Ram and the Bull, next the Twins, the Crab (Cancer), and the Lion. More upwards the Virgin with the Corn-Ear, the Balance, and the Scorpion. The next three zodiacal constellations/signs are the Archer, the Goat-fish, (Capricorn), and the Waterman.

Cancer the Crab is represented by the Scarab Beetle. The figure of the Lion near the Scales (which is not the zodiacal Lion) is the constellation Centaurus. A man and a woman with joined hands represent Gemini. The Ram and the Bull are both reversed from their normal pose, and the figure of the Bull is complete, not the usual truncated (half) figure. The woman (Isis?) who holds a spike of wheat is an obvious representation of Virgo. (Also, the female figure standing on the Lion's tail, which she grasps with her hand, has been interpreted by some as representing Virgo.) The Scales point in a different direction, the Waterman's vessel and stream of water are on the reverse side of his body; the zodiacal Fishes swim in parallel directions instead of divergent ones.

Each zodiacal figure/sign has has its 3 decanal stars at the outer edge of the panel.

The familiar northern Egyptian constellations of the Bull's Foreleg ((part of) Ursa Major, the Big Dipper asterism) and the Hippopotamus (Draco, the Dragon) are easily identifiable. (The northern constellation are those which appear in the tomb of Senenmut.) The figure of the Hippopotamus is in the centre. (One controversial view is that a mark on the breast of the Hippopotamus identifies the north ecliptic pole.) The figure of an Ape is under the Scorpion. Instead of the Great Bear there is the figure of a crocodile. Also, the small crouched lion next to (i.e., beneath) the Bull's Foreleg on the Denderah zodiac is part of Egypt's indigenous Northern group of constellations (near the celestial pole). Currently (circa 2002 onwards) there is a manufactured controversy over whether this particular figure is a lion or a ram. The depiction does not suggest a ram. Unfortunately there is a lack of textual information to clarify the identification. However, the star map depiction on the Heter coffin from Roman Egypt indicates the figure is indeed a crouching lion belonging to the northern group of early Egyptian constellations. (Many other figures representing constellations have not yet been identified with those in present use.)

Hydra and the Raven are in fairly correct positions under the Lion. The representation of Orion and Sirius is not quite identical with that in the "rectangular zodiac" in the Great Hypostyle Hall. (Below Leo is situated a cow in a boat with a star between its horns. This figure is Sirius.) The bow behind Sirius reminds us that "the Bow Star" was one of the Babylonian names of Sirius. Orion is the figure holding a staff and standing near Taurus. The jackal near the Hippopotamus is Ursa Minor.

The symbols of the planets are located in the constellations in which they were thought to be particularly (astrologically) influential. The disc between Pisces and Aries may be the full moon.

The zodiac (i.e., sky) is supported by four human-headed feminine figures standing erect (at the four corners (or four columns/four pillars of the sky) of the canopy of heaven), who are the goddesses of the cardinal points of the compass. Four goddesses representing the cardinal directions, oriented to true north rather than local north, support the zodiac with the help of for pairs of kneeling falcon-headed gods, between the four goddesses. (The other identifications given are: (1) four standing figures of the sky-goddess Nut; (2) eight figures of the kneeling earth-god Geb, between the four goddesses.) The four goddesses on the outside, all holding up their arms and holding the planisphere (and supporting the vault of heaven) are supposed to turn it around in their hands.

Summary tally of representations on Denderah circular zodiac: (1) Decans: 36 + 1 = 37. (2) Northern Egyptian constellations: 5. Other Egyptian/Greek constellations: 5. (3) Greek zodiacal constellations/signs: 12. Planets: 5. Total = 59 constellations/stars + 5 planets = 64 figures. (Éric Aubourg (1995) identifies 28 representations of Greek constellations within the Hathor temple.)

For the theme that the majority of the Denderah zodiac depictions are representations of Greek constellations see: (1) Aubourg, Éric. (1995). "La date de conception du zodiaque du temple d'Hathor à Dendera." (Le Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale (BIFAO), Tomé 95, Pages 1-10). (2) Cauville, Sylvie. (1997, 2nd edition with corrections 2015). Le Zodiaque d'Osiris. Le Zodiaque de Dendara au musée du Louvre. (See pages 32-38). For the theme that the Denderah zodiac is a comprehensive compilation of Egyptian and Greek constellations see: Christian Leitz. (2006). "Die Sternbilder auf dem rechteckigen und runden Tierkreis von Dendara." (Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), Band 34, Pages 285-318). This creates some issues. We know from Hipparchus and Ptolemy that Greek star groups were subject to alterations/changes - up to and including Ptolemy the Greeks altered the boundaries of the constellation figures. It would be reasonably accurate to say that during the period from the 6th-century BCE to the 4th-century BCE - and even much later - different Greek astronomers would change the constellation boundaries, if not the actual constellations. The constellation figures of the Greek sky, and most constellation boundaries, only became standardised after Aratus (i.e., with Ptolemy). It is known that some Greek constellation figures shared the same star (or even stars) within their respective boundaries. There are 3 illustrations for this: (1) Aratus included Serpens in Ophiuchus, and Lupus in Centaurus. Serpens was separated from Ophiuchus, and Lupus separated from Centaurus by Hipparchus/Ptolemy. Lupus is described by Eratosthenes as a "Wine-skin." Aratus separated the Pleiades from Taurus whereas Hipparchus made the Pleiades an asterism of Taurus. Aratus' description of Perseus (specifically the left knee) is criticised by Hipparchus. (2) From Otto Neugebauer's, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy: "Ptolemy states that he had repeatedly changed the boundaries of constellations and quotes some examples where he deviates from Hipparchus. ... When Ptolemy says that he had redefined the association of many single stars with respect to the traditional constellation configurations he adds the remark that his predecessors did not act differently." (Part 1, Pages 286-287). See Part 1, Page 336 for differences between Aratus, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy regarding Cassiopeia and Perseus; and Part 2, Page 1027 regarding the drastic regrouping of stars in Virgo by Ptolemy to that of Hipparchus. (3) Gerd Grasshoff in his The History of Ptolemy's Star Catalogue states (Page 40): "The decrease in the number of constellations in the course of the [Greek] development of the constellations can be deduced by comparing the number of stars in Ptolemy's constellations with [those in] the Hipparchian register. The oldest constellations, the zodiacal signs [constellations] have a disproportionately larger number of external stars, indicating that the area of the constellations was reduced in the course of time." These examples of constellation changes all deal with subdividing or removing parts of one, or renaming a group of stars. They do not indicate the relocation of positions of constellations.

A much larger "rectangular (straight) zodiac" is still situated in the ceiling of the Hathor temple's Great Hypostyle Hall. (The term "hypostyle" denotes a hall with a roof borne on columns. Its use first appeared in Diodorus, 1st century BCE.) The capitals of the columns supporting the decorated ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall are carved in the shape of a naos sistrum. The naos sistrum is a musical instrument (a rattle) with its body shaped like Hathor's head, and its upper part shaped like a shrine (naos).

The constellations depicted on the 2 zodiacs at Dendera do not bear any relation to their actual size marked in the sky.

Appendix 1: Date of Temple of Hathor and Round Zodiac

(a) Source - Edited Contribution by the Canadian historian of astronomy Mario Tessier to Hastro-L (2004):

Traditional dating of the Denderah temple puts it squarely in the late Hellenistic period, in the first century BCE, notably on iconographic details and inscriptions. For example, the south outer wall of the temple have reliefs showing the famous Cleopatra and her son Caesarion (http://egyptphoto.ncf.ca/EgyptPerspective31.htm). The shrine was probably built by the Ptolemies, and probably finished by Cleopatra VII Philopator herself, who would have played on the Hathor worship as a goddess of fertility, of women, and of childbirth (another Hathor shrine was built by her in Philae). The temple we see today is the reconstruction during the Ptolemaic period of a much older temple which already existed in the 4th century BCE.

You should find good information about Egyptian temples in: Richard H. Wilkinson's book The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. (London, 2000).

A study on the conception of the zodiac, based on astronomical computations, was published recently. I read about it first in a French astronomy magazine, Ciel et Espace, if I remember correctly. The original study, on which the article was based, is: "La date de conception du zodiaque du temple d' Hathor à Dendera." by Eric Aubourg, Bulletin de l' Institut Français d' Archéologie Orientale (BIFAO) 95, 1995, pages 1- 10. "This new study of the Zodiac of Dendera, currently exposed at the Louvre, is based on the principle of the conjunctions and oppositions of the planets and their periodicity. It develops the idea that the Zodiac does not reflect an instantaneous position of the planets (which can be identified according to the constellations) but that the ancient astronomers chose to represent the last stationary point of each planet preceding the elaboration of the Zodiac. It can thus be calculated that the Zodiac was composed in summer 51, in July or August. This precise dating is confirmed by the identification of an eclipse of the moon and an eclipse of the sun."

Source: http://www.ifao.egnet.net/doc/Publications/DocNouvPub/Periodiques/BIFAO_95.htm

Jean Biot (1774-1862), an eminent French astronomer, presented papers to the Academy of Inscriptions in 1822 and 1844 (Memoire sur le zodiaque circulaire de Denderah), in which he stated  that even though the round zodiac was sculpted in the Roman era it either referred to a much earlier time, or the background sky was copied from an earlier work which may have been rendered on parchment or stone. Jean Biot pinpointed the sky drawn on the ceiling of Denderah at precisely 700 BCE at midnight on summer solstice. Sir Norman Lockyer (1836-1920) concluded in his book The Dawn of Astronomy that subsequent translated context from hieroglyphics related the round zodiac to the period of 1,700 BCE. Of course, these first attempts at dating the celestial Denderah ceiling were not supported by later archaeological evidences or astronomical computations.

(b) Source: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/07/decoding-the-ancient-egyptians-stone-sky-map.html

Sylvie Cauville, when at the Centre for Computer-aided Egyptological Research at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, astronomically investigated the Denderah planisphere. Using the 5 planets known to the Egyptians that are all depicted on the Zodiac of Dendera she worked with the astrophysicist Eric Aubourthe who used the planetary configuration depicted - deemed an event which occurs only once every 1000 years - and dated the map to between 15 June and 15 August, 50 BC - just after the death of Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy Auletes, in 51 BC. Two eclipses are also shown, which Aubourg identified as the solar eclipse of 7 March 51 BC and a lunar eclipse that occurred on 25 September 52 BC. Cauville's explanation for the reason for the Egyptians making the considerable effort to create the sky map was the solar eclipse must have occurred in Alexandria at around the same time that Ptolemy Auletes died. Cleopatra had the Zodiac created to "inscribe for eternity" the moment of his death (but also to mark her own rise to power).

(c) Source - Edited Contribution by the Dutch astronomer Robert van Gent to Hastro-L (2004):

In an 81-page booklet by Sylvie Cauville (Le zodiaque d'Osiris, Uitgeverij Peeters (Louvain, 1997), the author - who has published extensively on the temple which originally contained the planisphere - claims that the planetary positions on the planisphere can be matched to various dates around 50 BC. The author (and the astronomer who assisted her) appear to be unaware of the fact that the planets on the planisphere are located in their so-called exaltation points ("hypsomata"), i.e., the signs in which they are assumed to have special powers. This is a well known tradition in Late-Babylonian and Hellenistic astrology.

(d) Source - http://www.decodingtheheavens.com/blog/?tag=/zodiac (Blog: Decoding the Heavens - Jo Marchant)

"The design is a representation of the sky. Egyptologist Sylvie Cauville and astrophysicist Eric Aubourg used the positions of the star constellations and planets to date the Zodiac to between 15 June and 15 August in the year 50 BC, during the period between the death of Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy Auletes, in 51 BC, and the establishment of joint rule between Cleopatra and Caesarion (her 5-year-old son by Julius Caesar), in 42 BC. Two eclipses - the solar eclipse of 7 March 51 and the lunar eclipse of 25 September 52 - are represented on the skyscape in the locations where they would have occurred. But why would the Egyptians have wanted to commemorate this particular moment? I emailed Cauville and she says her hypothesis is that the total solar eclipse coincided in Alexandria with the death of Cleopatra's father. "She [Cleopatra] may have wanted to inscribe for eternity the passing of power from King-Rê to herself, the female sun." I'm so glad I asked! Rê is another name for the sun god, Ra, by the way. The pharaohs, including those of Cleopatra's dynasty, often claimed that they were sons and daughters of Ra. Dendera would have been chosen because the temple there was dedicated to female royalty. (The temple at Edfu, where two similar zodiacs are located, is dedicated to the male royalty.) The Dendera zodiac was on the ceiling of one of the temple's two chapels dedicated to Osiris, the god of eternal return. … [Cauville's comments have been translated from French]"

Appendix 2: The Depiction of the Lion

The zodiacal lion constellation (Leo) is very late in Egypt. It appears on the Denderah circular zodiac as part of the 12 Greek-Babylonian zodiacal constellations forming an inner ring following a circle corresponding to the ecliptic. Included mongst the Egyptian constellations surrounding it is a reclining/crouching animal (identified as a lion) adjacent to/resting on the Bull's Thigh/Leg constellation (= the Big Dipper). This is identified with the same reclining/crouching lion that appears in depictions of the northern group of constellations in royal New Kingdom tombs and elsewhere. As example: In the New Kingdom tomb of Sethos I there is a depiction of a reclining lion above a crocodile among the northern group of constellations. A reclining lion is also depicted in the celestial diagram on the Senmut ceiling (New Kingdom period, ceiling dated circa 1473 BCE). Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker (Egyptian Astronomical Texts, Vol. III, Text, 1969, Page 200) tentatively identified it as a lion. Richard Parker ("Egyptian Astronomy, Astrology, and Calendrical Reckoning," Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Volume XV, Supplement I, 1978, Page 721) called it a lion. Marshall Clagett (Ancient Egyptian Science, Volume II, 1995, Pages 117, 125) identifies the lion in the celestial diagram on the ceiling of Senmut's tomb as "Divine Lion" and the lion on the ceiling of the tomb of Seti I as "lion." Ed Krupp ("The Sphinx Blinks," Sky and Telescope, Volume 101, Number 3, March, 2001, Pages 86-88) summarises that this lion constellation is not to be mistaken for a depiction of the zodiacal Leo. The lion is not the zodiacal Leo but an unidentified northern constellation. Both it and the zodiacal Leo appear on the Denderah zodiac. Marshall Clagett notes (AES, Page 119) that the astronomer and classicist Alexander Pogo identified the northern lion constellation with the stars of modern-day Auriga (which lies north of the ecliptic). The design of the Denderah circular zodiac - which occurred during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods - enabled the syncretic merging of traditional Egyptian "astronomical" iconography for the stars, constellations, and planets with recent Greek "astrological" iconography for the Babylonian-Greek 12-sign zodiac. The animal adjacent to the Bull's Thigh constellation on the Denderah circular zodiac is identifiable as a crouching lion and reasonably likely to be a Ptolemaic representation of the lion constellation belonging to the northern constellation group. Hence we have the depiction of 2 different lion constellations on the Denderah circular zodiac - an indigenous Egyptian lion constellation is likely featured and also the Greek-Babylonian zodiacal constellation Leo is also featured. The indigenous Egyptian lion constellation is another lion altogether.

Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker note it is hazardous to claim certain interpretations of the figures and constellations on either of the Dendera zodiacs, noting (EAT III, Page 202) on how "little accuracy in details can be expected from artistic representations of this kind." There are several issues to be considered. The Denderah circular zodiac was created as late as the middle of the 1st-century BCE. At this period it is reason to assume that the astronomer-priests of the Denderah temple were losing their former detailed knowledge of Egyptian astronomy and thus inadvertently confusing/duplicating figures on both the existing Denderah temple zodiacs. If duplicating figures, then it would indicate that they were using more than one source of information - perhaps originating from different cult centres, which held views of astronomy that perhaps varied. With the Denderah circular zodiac the astronomer-priests putting together a unique syncretic circular zodiac and possibly using different sources for their chosen representations of the constellations. A number of figures on the Denderah circular zodiac that present a challenge to explain, even to specialists such as Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker, who made careful comparisons with many other forms of the ancient Egyptian constellations.

The principal aim (rather than contention) of some amateur investigators involved with alternative Egyptology is to date the construction of the Sphinx to circa 10,500 BCE on the basis of supposed astronomical computations (aided by the flawed water erosion assumption). The associated aim is to associate the zodiacal Leo constellation with the Sphinx at this early date of circa 10,500 BCE. Achieving this latter claim involves 'stepping-stone' speculative arguments that require suspension of evidence.

The supposed controversy over the constellation Leo being represented on ancient Egyptian constellation depictions (i.e., in the celestial diagrams in the tombs of Senmut and Seti I) is manufactured by pseudohistorians such as Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval who have no formal training or qualifications/credentials in Egyptology. Their claims date back to the mid 1990's. (Claims for the association of the constellation Leo with the Sphinx predate Hancock and Bauval. Perhaps the earliest such claim is by the early 17th-century English traveller George Sandys (1577-1644) in his book A Relation of a Journey (1621) which relates his 1610-1612 expedition to the Middle East.) The interpretation promoted by Hancock and Bauval is that any early depiction of a lioness is connected with the Great Sphinx as Leo. The assumption that an ancient Egyptian Leo the lion matches the Leo the lion of the later Babylonian-Greek constellation system is a nil evidence assertion. No evidence exists that the ancient Egyptians knew the constellation Leo before the Hellenistic period beginning late 4th-century BCE. However, to fit with their Sphinx/Leo claims they want the ancient Egyptian depictions of a reclining/crouching animal (identified as a lion(ess)) to be Leo. More particularly, Hancock and Bauval want an Egyptian Leo tradition as old as the 11th-millennium BCE. (Their assumption is that any early Egyptian depiction of a lion(ess) is to be identified as Leo the Lion.) But the stars/constellations around the northern constellation lion are not like any constellations we see today - they are completely different. Hancock and Bauval also argue that the Sphinx represents the zodiacal Leo and maintain that both existed in Egypt as early as the 11th-millennium BCE. This argument relies in part on the peculiar (flawed) geological claims made by Robert Schoch about the Sphinx. There is no archaeological evidence establishing Egyptians (Egyptian culture) as early as circa 11th-millennium BCE. Archaeological evidence dates the Sphinx to the Old Kingdom period; to the reigns of Khufu and Khafre (circa mid 4th-millennium BCE). (See: The Secrets of the Sphinx by Zahi Hawass (1998).) Note: The 11th-millennium BCE is important to the speculation promoted by Hancock since this is the era he seeks to assign to the advanced progenitor civilization (i.e., Atlantis), now vanished, but which he claims through most of his works had existed and whose advanced technology influenced and shaped the development of the world's known civilizations of antiquity.

Mehit hieroglyph/goddess is not traceable earlier than Early Dynastic period.

A recent article introducing even more conjectures is: Seyfzadeh, M., Schoch, R. and Bauval, R. (2017). "A New Interpretation of a Rare Old Kingdom Dual Title: The King's Chief Librarian and Guardian of the Royal Archives of Mehit," Archaeological Discovery, Volume 5, Number 3, July, 2017, Pages 163-177. Archaeological Discovery is an open access journal. The journal editors claim to offer rigorous peer review. Of particular interest is the claim by Manouchehr (Manu) Seyfzadeh concerning the Egyptian lion goddess Mehit. Seyfzadeh claims the Egyptian depiction of a recumbent female lion/bent-rod (signifying "key" as in lock and key, with the lioness bearing the lock) hieroglyph is identified with the Egyptian lion goddess Mehit (and with the Sphinx prior to the Old Kingdom period). Also, it is identified as a configuration of early Egyptian constellations or perhaps a symplegma (the contention is the bent-rod is at least resting directly on top of the recumbent lion (Mehit)) with the (more or less) traditional stars of Leo the Lion identified as an Egyptian Leo and the stars above Leo identified as the bent-rod. Seyfzadeh is convinced he has discovered a bent-rod constellation in the stars above Leo - 2 bent-rods in fact, side by side. Seyfzadeh proceeds to argue that this is proof that the early dynastic Egyptians knew a Leo/Bent-Rod star configuration, which gave rise to the Mehit myth. The area above Leo has numerous faint stars. None are brighter than magnitude 5 and 6. It appears that Seyfzadeh has made the identification by working from a predawn photograph he has taken. However, as the 18th-century English cookery writer Hannah Glasse is reputed to have written (but never did; 'catch' was a misprint for 'case' = skin) in her recipe for jugged hare - "First catch your hare" (now established as a proverb). (First things first, make sure you have (or have established) a thing first before you think what to do with it. = Be cautious against undue reliance on an event or situation (or 'fact') that has not yet happened(/been established).) It is not established by Hancock and Bauval that the depiction of the archaic recumbent female lion is Leo. It is not established by Seyfzadeh that an Early Dynastic Mehit hieroglyph is an archaic Leo the Lion. Seyfzadeh does not provide any convincing argument for Egyptian recognition of the stars of Leo the Lion as Leo. He simply builds in the assumption that any lion is Leo the Lion = the Sphinx is Leo the Lion. In the absence of credible evidence, and also due to the the existence of credible contrary evidence, the Sphinx/Leo/Bent-Rod/Leo claims lack any substantial proof and are simply highly unlikely.

If one or more of the illustrations of the bent-rod and lion that Seyfzadeh is using so far is superimposed on the stars comprising the figure of Leo it will be found they do not match - the bend in the bent-rod is reversed. What depiction of Mehit shows the bent-rod reversed? (Also, the bend is wider.) None has been offered by Seyfzadeh. Seyfzadeh states the bent-rod is clearly present in the star field above Leo. However, the stick figure he draws (connecting dot-to-dot stick figure lines) looks nothing like the illustrations he is using so far. Basically, the stars above Leo comprise the area near Leo Minor. The stars in this area (including Leo Minor were originally considered to be part of the constellation Leo. Leo Minor has only one star brighter than magnitude 4 (46-LMi (magnitude 3.8)). It has been remarked that exceptionally dark skies are needed to make out the triangle shape which marks the body of Leo Minor. It has also been remarked that ancient classical astronomers considered the general region to be undefined with no distinct patterns. Seyfzadeh is basically using 5th and 6th magnitude stars to form a stick figure of his bent-rod. (An easy star atlas to use is Norton's Star Atlas.) Not explained/established is whether the bent-rod identification above Leo was made by simply using a star field photograph rather than the more difficult task of actually observing that region of the night sky. (A star field photograph is far easier to use and can be captured with a short multi-second exposure.) There are additional issues which Seyfzadeh does not explain: The bent-rod appears on the astronomical ceiling of the Seti I tomb, directly under the standing bull and nowhere near the reclining lion is - which is not identifiable with Leo. Seyfzadeh has not explained - and has an obligation to do so - why the configuration of his bent-rod painted on the astronomical ceiling of Seti I differs from the illustrations he is using so far. Once again the evidence is the Seti I tomb depicts northern group constellations. (The bull is frequently described as standing on a platform.)

What these claims by Seyfzadeh lack is credibility. There is a lack of plausible supporting evidence. Nothing is proved. Experts on hieroglyphic texts would be the arbiters of the identification and meaning of the lion and bent-rod hieroglyph. There is no astronomical/archaeological evidence of anything. Imagination is indicated as playing a role. Claims by Seyfzadeh need to follow the basic principles of rules of evidence for historic research. Like Hancock and Bauval, Seyfzadeh lacks relevant specialist training and credentials in Egyptology and archaeology. Do doubt Seyfradeh is convinced that he has made an important discovery. My conclusion is that he has 'missed the boat.' How Seyfradeh constructs his claims is lacking in rigour. (He seems intent on establishing an archaic Leo constellation in accord with the ideas of Hancock and Bauval.) There is a proper way to establish new claims/facts. There is a need to avoid the bad habit of making up facts. If an historical argument can't be made from sound/credible evidence and there is a reliance on flawed methodologies such as personal lack of doubts about what ancient Egyptian skywatchers would have seen and personal opinion on what is important as evidence, and invoking the claim that critics have a negative bias, then we have not only a questionable historical argument but a bad one. There is no strong compulsion evident to provide a high standard of proof for claims. What appears to matter is the results obtained by rather arbitrary/subjective methods. How Seyfradeh positions the bent-rod into the back of Leo the Lion is a fundamentally arbitrary, highly selective exercise with very faint (magnitude 5 and 6) stars. (According to Seyfzadeh's stick figures the lower part of the bent-rod is indicated as not being in the area above Leo but within the boundary of Leo.) Seyfzadeh's bent-rod appears on the ceiling in the tomb of Seti I, just under the Bull, but it doesn't reach down to the lion and into its back. Also, no independent evidence is provided to support his conjecture that the bent-rod hieroglyph represents a physical key. It is likely that Seyfzadeh will continue to see the astral bent-rod configuration of stars above Leo as the 'clincher' that the ancient Egyptian lion depiction was Leo. In particular he will continue to argue that the constellation Leo with the star field above it inspired Mehit with bent-rod.

Likely the closest Mesopotamian lion goddess to Mehit is malassu (shedu), but is not a match.

Alternative archaeology/alternative history is being used to influence/distort modern ideas about the past and present. A typical example is the content of popular television programs on archaeology. Popular representations of archaeology in the media give large amounts of time to the uncritical presentation of alternative archaeology/alternative history claims as guides to the past. The suggestion is that traditional professional archaeological/historical theory is 'terminally ill' or even 'dead.' Unfortunately pseudo-archaeology/pseudo-history remains unextinguishable.

Appendix 3: Copies of the Denderah Zodiac

A number of copies of the Denderah zodiac exist. In 1920 a bituminous plaster copy was made and placed in the ceiling opening of the chapel at Denderah, which had remained open to the sky from 1821 to 1920.

Another plaster copy of the zodiac is found at the Rosicrucian (Egyptian) Museum in San Jose, California (built in 1930). Its existence establishes a link between Rose-Croix Lodge and the Louvre, at least in 1925. The particular copy was bequeathed by Henri Verne, elected director of the National Museums and the Louvre at that time.

The British Museum exhibits marble copy (not the plaster cast ) made by Jean-Jacques Castex on the basis of the design by Édouard de Villiers du Terrage and Jean-Baptiste Jollois. (It would appear that this marble copy of the Denderah star map, carved by the French artist and sculptor Jean-Jacques Castex (1731-1821) in 1819 from casts (i.e., squeezes) of a one-third size wax model previously made (during the actual Napoleonic expedition to Egypt), was/is located in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England. Napoleon had originally contracted with Castex to produce a marble version of the wax model. However, the restoration government refused to honour Napoleon Bonaparte's contract. After (before?) Castex's death the marble carving came into the possession of a British speculator.) Superimposing the copy on the original highlights the numerous errors committed by Édouard de Villiers du Terrage and Jean-Baptiste Jollois. (Their somewhat inaccurate graphic copy dates from the Bonaparte expedition. It is the most internationally reproduced and diffused illustration of the Denderah zodiac.)

Another plaster copy of the Denderah zodiac has recently been exhibited at the Musée du Louvre-Lens.

The zodiac of Dendera was also reproduced as a black and white drawing on one of the ceilings of the mythological room of the Egyptian Museum, the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was also reproduced as a drawing on one of the ceilings of the Masonic Lodge of Saint-Nicolas (Liège) in Belgium. Unlike the Neues Museum, Kasteel Moeland has a coloured zodiac.

Appendix 4: Some Insightful Miscellaneous Comments by Ed. Krupp on Egyptian Temples and Astronomy

Ed. Krupp (Hastro-L, 13 December 2016): [snip] "Although astronomical imagery, inscriptions, and alignments are encountered in some Egyptian monuments and temples, it is all related to ritual. Almost all that we know about ancient Egyptian astronomy and calendrics is inferred from these sources. A few instruments are preserved. No information on actual observatories has survived. Only a few persons who may have been associated with calendrics and astronomy are known by name. Because these individuals have titles that identify them as priests and scribes and associate them with temples, it has been guessed that observations may have been performed from temple precincts, perhaps from the roofs. Anyone who has been on top of some of these temples knows they provide an elevated prospect, but the rooftops do not seem to have been designed with astronomy as a priority. The architecture primarily serves other purposes." [snip].

Ed. Krupp (Hastro-L, 15 December 2016): " [snip] ... [P]lease let me draw the thread on Ptolemaic temples and priests a little further, particularly from the perspective of architecture, iconography, and inscriptions. Dieter Arnold's Temples of the Last Pharaohs (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), a comprehensive and detailed historical study, is one of several sources that demonstrate the complexity of the character and development of Egyptian Ptolemaic temples. The Greek architecture imported into Egypt, particularly Alexandria, was Egyptianized. Syncretic cults (for example, Serapis) acquired the status of state religion, but traditional Egyptian religious belief was preserved and adopted by the Ptolemaic pharaohs. Many of the Ptolemaic temples, among them the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, the Temple of Horus at Edfu, the Temple of Khnum at Esna, the Temple of Haroeris and Sobek at Kom Ombo, and the Temple of Isis from Philae, contain elaborate and explicit astronomical imagery and texts. These images and texts are not encountered in earlier temples, but earlier temples also contain astronomical and calendrical material.

Although the fundamental design of the Ptolemaic temples generally adheres to the architectural principles of earlier New Kingdom temples, there are some differences. The Ptolemaic temples fulfill, however, the same primary function. The Egyptian temple often operates as the point of primordial Creation. It also conceptually miniaturizes the cosmos, symbolizes and helps preserve cosmic order, and houses the divine. Throughout Egyptian history, a robust bureaucracy of priests administered the temples, which operated as pharaonic monuments initiated and financed by the rulers. The Ptolemaic pharaohs often followed standard Egyptian convention. They also portrayed themselves as divine and installed their images in the temple. Of course, the Ptolemaic temples are named for the Ptolemaic-era pharaohs and have nothing to do with Ptolemy the astronomer.

Egyptian temple ritual can be partially discerned from accounts of ancient Greek authors and from iconography and inscriptions. For example, the primary New Year festival is portrayed on the walls of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. The ceremony was performed, in part, in an open-air kiosk on the roof, where light from the rising sun was permitted to fall upon a statue of Isis in her guise as Sirius. Several texts inscribed on the temple walls refer to this activity. For example, in loose English translation (Genuine Egyptologists are far more nuanced and critical in their handling of such texts.), "Her [Sirius/Isis] rays unite with the rays of the luminous god on that beautiful day of the sun disk's birth on the morning of the New Year's feast." This is a report of the observation of the heliacal rising of Sirius, which signalled the New Year. Similar material is present at other Ptolemaic temples.

Many of the reliefs of the Temple of Horus at Edfu illustrate another Egyptian ceremony, the Feast of the Beautiful Meeting (between Horus and Hathor). Texts refer to the mythical foundation of the temple, and other reliefs deal with the battle between light and darkness/good and evil/order and chaos (Horus and Seth). From these examples, the fundamentally Egyptian character of these Ptolemaic temples is clear. They were operated according to an Egyptian agenda by Egyptian ritual specialists. That said, other Mediterranean influences are also present. Some of the astronomical imagery owes a debt to the prevailing Hellenistic, international astronomy. Most of it is distinctly Egyptian and rooted in tradition that goes back to the Old Kingdom. 

... [T]he "side chapel" where the circular Dendera "Zodiac" relief, now in the Louvre, was originally located. This chapel is on the roof of the Temple of Hathor, in one of the two sanctuaries built there for the performance of Osirian mysteries—fundamentally the tale of the cycle of cosmic order. Each of these sanctuaries has two windowless rooms, one behind the other, and is fronted with an open court. They belong to the Late Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Both sanctuaries contain a great deal of mythic imagery and other celestial imagery. They provided no opportunity for observation or even convenient consultation of the planisphere that once occupied one of the ceilings. Also, the Dendera Circular Zodiac is not strictly a map of the sky. It is more like a symbolic representation of the sky. Assessments of the date for its design rely on a variety of assumptions, and any proposed date should be considered with caution. The identification of two eclipses on the relief is based on speculative visual interpretation of two elements in the relief. The date emerges from an analysis of the positions of the five naked-eye planets, the emblems for which are well established. Alternative explanations, however, have been offered for the configuration of the planets. The 50 B.C. date emerges from the assumption that the planets are all depicted for the same date. If, in fact, the planet emblems perform a different role and illustrate a different principle, their configuration does not have historical meaning.

... [A] few additional remarks about the Ramesside star clocks, which appear in certain New Kingdom pharaonic tombs. Although these have been enlisted in support of the notion that timekeeping Egyptian astronomers performed their observations from the roofs of temples, there is no evidence that clarifies how the timekeeping observations were actually made, what instruments were used to make the observations, and where the observations were made. These star clocks depict the positions of named stars on a grid that accompanies a seated figure facing frontally. The frontal facing is unusual in Egyptian art and suggests the figure was intended to illustrate something about the observational technique. It is generally accepted that the timekeeping stars were observed in or near meridian transit (on the north/south line) and that the stars' placement with respect to the figure has something to do with the location of the stars with respect to the meridian. It is likely the stars were observed with the merkhet (plumb line) and bay (forked stick), examples of which and descriptions of which have survived. A variety of interpretations of the meaning of the seated figure and his role in the timekeeping have been advanced, but none has been proved. Each interpretation also is compromised by details that contradict the analysis. The figure is dressed as a priest, and that leads to the reasonable conclusion that astronomical timekeepers were priests. The placement of these priests on a temple roof is neither supported nor contradicted by evidence. Alternative locations for the temple observatory have been suggested, however. One thorough account of this material may be found in the 1999 \University of Leicester Ph.D. thesis by Sarah Symons, "Ancient Egyptian Astronomy: Timekeeping and Cosmography in the New Kingdom." Symons explores the possibility stars were observed reflected in water along with the reflection of the observer. This approach has both potential and liabilities, but if taken seriously, it requires a respectable body of undisturbed water. It would be silly to imagine this on the temple roof. Symons instead suggests the ground-level "sacred lake" that so often accompanied the temple could have been used for this purpose. Clearly, the problem is unresolved. We don't know exactly how the Egyptians observed the stars, and we don't know where they observed them." [snip].

*     *     *

Karnak is the modern-day name for the ancient site of the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt. The Karnak Temple Complex in Egypt is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia, Karnak is believed to have been an ancient observatory - at least according to Norman Lockyer - as well as a place of worship where the god Amun would interact directly with the people of earth. Heliopolis - the city of the sun - was a major city of ancient Egypt. Several successive waves of pillage have robbed it of most of its monuments. It is thought that solar observations were conducted here. The existence of gnomons at Meroe (Sudan) suggests it was a location for astronomical observations - at least perhaps the observation of the summer solstice. A stone altar with triangular carvings discovered at Meroe (site 964) was thought by the British archaeologist John Garstang to be an astronomical observation stone.


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